How to Dump Your RV/Camper Tanks

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Man sitting in front of brown travel trailer

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I’ll be completely honest. I don’t empty our tanks. I mean, I help Jim by turning the water on or off or standing on the toilet pedal to fill the tanks. But I’m never the person in the rubber gloves hooking the sewer hoses to the camper. 

That being said, emptying the gray and black tanks in a travel trailer is a crucial part of maintaining the cleanliness and functionality of the RV’s plumbing system. When you first start RVing, it can be overwhelming. So, (with Jim’s help) I am here to describe step-by-step instructions for emptying your tanks.

What Gear Do I Need?

First, your shopping list. You should keep a bin of gear specifically for dumping in your camper storage or truck bed that you can quickly grab when you pull up to the dump station.

Note: If your camper is older and doesn’t have a gate valve that keeps the waste at bay while you open the cap, it’s worth investing in a twist-on waste valve for each tank. 

Before You Leave Your Campsite

If you have a water hook-up, fill your tanks before dumping. (If not, see the bucket tip below.) A full tank will help flush out more solids, and if you have to drive to a dump station, the swishing water will help knock loose any solid waste stuck in your tanks.

Step 1: Make sure your camper is level.

If you are at a full hook-up site, chances are you’ve already leveled your camper. If you are dumping at a dump station, it may not be level. To level quickly, we use our Anderson leveling system. It only takes a moment and keeps anyone waiting behind us at the dump station from getting angry about how long we are taking.

Step 2: Get out your bin of dumping gear

When packing up your camper, keep this bin in a designated spot that is easy to access. It will save you time at your site and keep everyone waiting behind you for their turn at the dump station happy.

Step 3: Dump the black tank first

Connect your sewer hose and clear elbow to the black tank outlet and the dumping station inlet. Once it is fully attached, open the black tank. The waste should flow through the hose to the dump site without spillage.

BUCKET TIP: We keep a 5-gallon bucket with our dumping gear. While Jim is hooking up the hoses, I fill the bucket. When the liquid flow slows, one of us dumps the water from the bucket into the camper toilet. The sudden rush of water helps flush extra waste particles that would otherwise sit in the tank and stink up the camper.  If no one is behind us, we do this a few times. If we are at a full hookup site, we connect a garden hose to the water hook-up while we dump, and Jim uses our cleaning wand to rinse out the toilet tank. (This is easy because we have an external door into our bathroom. If you do not, you’ll need a hose long enough to reach from your water hook-up to your main door.)  

Step 4: Dump the Gray Tank

Close your black tank valve and switch your sewer hose to the gray tank. Always dump your gray tank second to clean out any particles left from the black tank waste. 

Step 5: Clean your hose

Keep the hose connected to the dump station inlet, disconnect it from your camper, and use the water hook-up at the dump station or campsite to rinse your hose of any remaining waste before packing up all your gear back into your bin.

Once everything is empty and rinsed, pack up your stuff and head on your way!

Additional Tips:

RV Sewer Tank Treatment – If you notice an odor from your camper toilet, you can add a sewer treatment at any point on your journey. Some work better than others, and you’ll have to find a fragrance you like.

Bag of Ice Trick – We often dump a 15-pound bag of ice into our RV toilet before heading out on a trip. While we drive, the ice swishes around the tank and brushes any stuck-on waste left behind after our last dump. 

At full hook-ups: We see people hooking up their black tank hose and leaving it open. Big mistake. It not only allows odors to escape, but it also keeps liquids from accumulating in your black tank. When that happens, the solid pieces pile into a big chunk that won’t fit through your sewer hose. 

Staying long-term without a hook-up?

We have our handy waste tank when we don’t have a sewer hook-up and are looking to stay in one site for a week or longer. We primarily use it for gray water, which fills quickly with five people taking showers, brushing their teeth, and washing dishes. You dump into it like you would a dump station, then attach it to your hitch and pull it to the dump station to dump there.  You can use your regular sewer hose, so you only need to buy the tank.